Tuesday, March 26, 2013

HKMS : The Law Enforcer

A series of HK movie synopses regurgitated verbatim from the dvd/vcd/laserdisc cover. Beware this definitely contains spoilers.

Wu Wan-lung is a member of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force and is temporarily interdicted from duty because he has been suffering from epilepsy. One day he coincidently spots out a robbery and has subsequently rescued a girl Mark, and also causes the three robbers at scene seriously hurt. On the other hand, Danny Lee, a Chief Inspector of the Crime Squad, ratiocinates that there will be a big hold-up involving trade of arms occurred in the near future. In the mean time, one jewellery shop is robbed by two gangsters Evan and Fat Dog. On the route of escape, Fat Dog is shot to injure and is finally killed by Evan. One day, Wu seriously hurts a man called Nut in the consequence of preventing a taxi driver from being assaulted by Nut. Nut is heartedly hate Wu and swears to take revenge. Coincidently, Nut and Evan are good friends and Evan requests Nut to become his partner in a tremendous planned robbery...

It's been a while since I the last one of these, and I think The Law Enforcer was worth the wait. In fact I think "Nut is heartedly hate Wu" is my new favourite HKMS line of them all.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hong Kong Poster : Naked Killer

Cool original HK poster for Clarence Fok's Naked Killer. I can only think producer Wong Jing had a day off when this image was approved as it's a long way from the more well known promotional artwork for the movie (featured in this post). In fact, in comparison this poster is positively subtle (not usually one of Wong Jing's strengths), and only hints at the trashy shenanigans to come. The biggest giveaway is of course the large category III symbol, proudly and prominently displayed like a badge of honour.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

To & Wai's Blind Detective Teaser And Posters

With the Hong Kong film festival and Filmart in full swing, movie companies are pimping their wares and that means trailers and posters galore. Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai's latest collaboration reunites one of the most successful pairings in Milkyway Image's history, Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng. Their first film together with To and Wai was Needing You and they last worked together on Yesterday Once More, now ten years later they star in Blind Detective.

The teaser trailer below gives little of the plot away, but makes the film look like it steals from a number of other films, including Running On Karma and Mad Detective amongst others. This is not a problem as far as I'm concerned, I've always liked the recycling of ideas throughout Milkyway's movies. Regardless the footage in the trailer looks beautifully shot, and as always I adore how Johnnie To and his cinematographer Cheng Siu Keung shoot the dark.

Click here to see the trailer in HD

The release date is not set at the moment, but the film will apparently be ready in time for the Autumn festivals. With Blind Detective and Drug War to come, 2013 is looking like a great year for Milkyway fans.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mail Call Naked Killer VHS Collector's Box Set

Although I'm concentrating on picking up the Made In Hong Kong label VHS releases every so often another tape will catch my eye, and here is an excellent example. I simply couldn't resist the temptation provided by the limited edition collector's box set of Clarence Fok's wonderfully trashy fun fest Naked Killer.

An oversized box contains the movie uncut and in widescreen, along with two trailers and an interview with producer Wong Jing and star Simon Yam. In addition we have a sixteen page booklet featuring background information on the film and it's main stars, as well as the top ten "Deadly China Dolls". Scans to come soon.

In addition we get postcard size pieces of artwork for the film including a reproduction of one of the posters and some of the infamous promotional shots taken of Chingmy Yau to boost interest in the movie.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Trailer For Johnnie To's Drug War

Just ahead of the film's gala premiere at the Hong Kong film festival and around a month before it's actual release, a new trailer has been released for Johnnie To's Drug War. With advance word from it's early festival outings settling in the good to great range, this action orientated trailer does absolutely nothing to quash my enthusiasm and desire to see the film as soon as possible.

Click here to see the trailer on youtube

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Made In Hong Kong Collection : A Better Tomorrow II

John Woo's A Better Tomorrow II was released by M.I.H.K in 1994 with the catalogue number HK008. The cover and liner notes are below, click to see them full size. The film itself should need no introduction, but here is something I wrote as a footnote for the film on my favourite HK movies list.

John Woo's film is a bloody mess, a disjointed, terribly written jumble of ideas and stupidity and features one of the worst performances I've ever seen in a film from Dean Shek. So what makes it belong on this list? The simple fact is that I've seen the rice scene and the blistering climax of the movie more times than any other Hong Kong movie. When I first got hold of the film on a murky VHS bootleg, I would watch and rewind, watch and rewind until eventually I wore the tape out. To this day I still break out the dvd and watch just those two scenes. Awful and awesome at the same time.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Great International Trailer For Tragic Hero a.k.a Black Vengeance

Having recently viewed Taylor Wong's Tragic Hero again I checked the extra features on the UK M.I.A dvd, where I found an international trailer for the film, retitled as Black Vengeance. I'd never come across this before and a quick Youtube search turned up nothing, so I thought it was worth posting it as I found it very amusing.

Here is the link to see it in better quality.

Not only is the dubbing hilarious (most of the cast sound like they're in a spaghetti western, with gunshots to match), but the style of the voiceover guy seems more suited to a mondo movie from the 60's than a Chow Yun Fat starring heroic bloodshed movie from the late 80's. Considering the date on the card at the end of the trailer says 1994, it seems all the more bizarre that it's so old fashioned.

I wonder if the film played anywhere like this? A quick look on the IMDB shows an image on the Tragic Hero page titled Black Vengeance, but it's from a budget blaxploitation 4 film pack dvd release, completely unrelated to Tragic Hero. Checking the HKMDB fails to mention Black Vengeance as an alternate title. Anyone?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

So Many Tapes But No VCR?

When I began picking tapes up again I'd forgotten I no longer had a working VCR to play them on, so I set about tracking one down. The problem was it's pretty difficult to find new ones these days and given the significant drop off in manufacturing quality as VHS was being phased out, even harder to find a recent unit that would last. On the other hand, to buy a vintage, well built second hand model leaves you with the risk of continual replacement of worn parts which can get expensive quickly. Unless you're lucky enough to find a seller who has a well looked after and regularly serviced VCR, but then you're looking at a potentially high asking price. Which ever way you decide to go, as time goes on it's only going to get harder to find a quality, functioning player.

I ended up with somewhere in between with a JVC 7500 S-VHS model, it's better built than most newer models (although it certainly could be better) and has excellent image quality. Having had a look under the lid, it seems to be in pretty decent shape. The only downside is JVC don't have the best reliability record where VCRs are concerned, but for the price I paid and the amount of use it's likely to get I'm pretty happy. More importantly than anything else, I can watch tapes again.

Under the bonnet

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mail Call : Made In Hong Kong VHS Frenzy

After this post, which began my Made In Hong Kong collection series, I mentioned on facebook that I'd just bought 18 tapes from someone and they arrived today. It was 17 really but the extra one was included that was missing from a previous purchase.

I will be scanning all of the covers and liner notes to leave a record of the companies output as and when I pick the tapes up. If you have any M.I.H.K tapes to donate then please feel free to contact me.

For some reason I don't think I've ever got around to seeing City War, so I'll be sure to give that tape a watch first.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Eastern Heroes The Video Magazine Issue 1

Back in the mid 90's Rick Baker's Eastern Heroes magazine was an invaluable source of information for fans of Hong Kong cinema in the UK. In those pre-internet days it was difficult to find out anything about new releases in HK, so each issue of Eastern Heroes magazine was an eagerly awaited event. In addition to the publishing side of the business, they also did video distribution, and while Made In Hong Kong had the majority of the better titles, Eastern Heroes put out a number of interesting titles of their own. Which brings me to the topic of this post, the combination of magazine and video, with Eastern Heroes The Video Magazine Issue 1.

Although the video magazine was an intriguing idea to me, that being a number of short interviews/articles covering different aspects of HK cinema followed by a film at the end of the tape, at the time of release I didn't pick up either of the two issues that were released (a third was promoted but as far as I can tell never released). At that time I was newly married, money was tight and what I did have went on buying actual films. Another issue that prevented me giving them a shot was the possibility that they would be just a long promo piece for Rick Baker, Eastern Heroes and their movie releases. It would be harsh to blame him for the self promotion I suppose after all, thanks to John Woo, Chow Yun Fat, Jackie Chan and others, Hong Kong cinema probably hadn't had the kind of exposure it was receiving in the UK ever before, and certainly not since Bruce Lee exploded into the public consciousness. I just didn't want to pay to see that.

So now with Eastern Heroes about to re-launch, I thought it would be a good time to give the video mag a viewing, 18 years late! I'm going to break down the magazine into it's parts, with a few words about each segment.

The magazine begins with a short introduction from Rick Baker, taped in front of a selection of HK movie posters.

Brief interviews with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao follow. This section is a little over padded with clips, but Yuen in particular is pretty enthusiastic here. These interviews are available to view on youtube if you are interested.

One of the best parts on the tape comes next, titled Hong Kong video and laserdisc update. It begins with footage of Rick Baker sweating buckets in front of a night market stall full of VHS tapes, before moving into a video store where Rick chats with the store's owner. The conversation covers the HK market, what makes for a popular title and the split in users between VHS and laserdisc at the time. He also explains the criteria for making the decision on how some movies were spread over two laserdiscs despite comfortably fitting on one.

Next up is Wong Jing, who according to Baker "Could be the next contender for Hollywood", imagine that! He chats about God Of Gamblers and Nat Chan Pak Cheung. Again the segment is overly padded with clips, but I'll forgive it in this case as it has an hilariously dubbed clip from Magic Crystal.

A brief interview with Godfrey Ho follows, which is little more than an interrupted advert for Ho's Lethal Panther, released in the UK by guess who? Yes you got it, Eastern Heroes, re-titled as Deadly China Dolls.

Another good segment, Girls with guns features interviews with Yukari Oshima and Moon Lee. It's great to see them being interviewed, and Moon in particular is charming. Plenty of clip padding again, but some excellent scenes are chosen so you won't mind.

After that we follow Rick into the Hong Kong Planet Hollywood, this tour of the restaurant is mercifully brief as we see some of the props around the place, but the combination of low light and blaring music make it difficult to see or hear much at all.

Here we move onto the Heroic Bloodshed segment, which starts with a brief chat with Simon Yam, who says he prefers making movies such as Hong Kong Gigolo over action movies, I bet you do Simon!

The best part of the whole tape is footage from Chow Yun Fat's 1993 appearance at the legendary Scala cinema in London. I was gutted to miss out on this at the time, I'd been to a previous Eastern Heroes event at the Scala the year before, but I couldn't get a ride this time. Cool looking as ever and as charming as his onscreen self, Chow works the audience to a fever pitch, lapping up the attention from the fanboy crowd. Highlights include two ladies getting the chance to meet Chow, both overcome by the occasion, the older lady who cries as Chow jokes about them getting married and leaving together is the absolute highlight of the tape. Ever the pro, Chow keeps a match hanging from the corner of his mouth almost throughout the entire Q&A session.

The Category III section is very disappointing, as Deadly China Dolls is rolled out again! Did we really need more clips from this one? From there we get clips from Holy Virgin vs The Evil Dead, The Untold Story and Run And Kill, along with another soundbite from Simon Yam, telling us thrillers are popular in HK.

A visit to the Eastern Heroes shop in Camden Town comes next. I'm not sure if the spelling of the word laserdisc with a z instead of the s was intentional or not, but I hope so since it appears on two different signs we see. The shop was somewhere I always wanted to visit but I never got to go, had I seen this at the time I may have made more effort, just to see all those lovely HK laserdiscs.

From here on in things go downhill rapidly, as we see video reviews of a number of Eastern Heroes releases (thankfully not Deadly China Dolls), including Hard Boiled 2 (actually The Last Blood), Magic Cop, New Killers In Town, The Victim, Holy Virgin vs The Evil Dead and Spooky Encounters (Encounters Of A Spooky Kind 2). These are delivered by a variety of people including facebook friend Ken Miller and martial arts star Jude Poyer. Unfortunately the reviews don't work in this video format. Nowhere near detailed enough to really be called reviews, technically poor and with awkward delivery, which only enhances the feeling you're paying to see an Eastern Heroes advert.

More promotion as Rick is back to promote another Eastern Heroes release in the form of the previously thought lost kung fu flick Snake Deadly Act.

The last segment before the film that rounds out the tape is a selection of trailers and clips for D.I.Y kung fu movies, I don't mean to sound harsh here, but if I'm honest these clips did nothing more than give me a headache. I can only apologise if anyone reading this was involved in any of them, sorry!

The film featured on the tape is an early Jackie Chan appearance called Young Tiger and is dubbed into English, which I haven't seen.

In truth I was kind of right on both points I made earlier, the video magazine was a solid idea and indeed parts of this first issue are great fun. Unfortunately the sheer amount of Eastern Heroes self promotion and it's products kind of takes away from said fun. Rick does deserve credit though, as it was a ballsy move to attempt something like this, despite a few technical issues and content choices it works pretty well. If I had seen this at the time of release I think I would have been more forgiving of it's problems, the best parts made it worth seeing the rest. In particular, at this time I'd never been to Hong Kong and the thought of being able to go and browse in a video store there was something I dreamt about (and yes, I'm aware how sad that sounds), and this would have been as close as I would get for another few years. The Chow Yun Fat appearance is worth seeing the tape for alone, and perhaps most importantly, for an hour or so I was transported back to the early to mid 90's when Hong Kong cinema was in one of it's most vibrant periods, and that my friends is priceless!

Click the pic to read the liner notes

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